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Who has custody of this dog?

Q:

My fiance and I broke up about a month ago. Two years ago I bought a dog from the shelter and got her micro chipped. She is still registered to my address and my name but she has been living at his parents house. She still comes over to visits. I bought her dog bed, toys, she eats food over here and over there. Both parties have receipts. My ex is claiming that the dog belongs to him since his parents have paid for the vet bills. I never asked them to take her to the vet nor did they ever discuss these vet visits with me. I personally do not like my dogs to go to the vet that often. I have a golden retriever who goes yearly. Who has custody of the dog? I want her back. He's never at home even after work hours and his parents expressed they never wanted a dog in the first place. I just want her to come home.

A:

In pet custody disputes, ‘ownership’ of the animal is often not 100% clear.  Each situation comes with its own set of facts. When an individual purchases or adopts an animal prior to marriage, that animal generally ‘belongs’ to the purchaser/adopter. However, actions subsequent to the purchase/adoption could change who ‘owns’ the animal. For example, if the purchaser/adopter sells, gives away, or adopts the animal to another person, that animal would normally no longer ‘belong’ to the original purchaser or adopter. If the actions of the original adopter or purchaser implied that the animal was given away or abandoned that too could cause a court to determine that the original purchaser/adopter no longer ‘owns’ the animal. When these disputes cannot be resolved amicably, lawsuits are sometimes commenced for the return of an animal.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

 

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